CALGARY – Shortly after burying the overtime winner, Drew Doughty wanted to bury the hatchet.
Not surprisingly, Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t on the same page.
"I’m excited for Round 2 in two weeks in L.A.," said Tkachuk in a dressing room quieted by the Flames’ dramatic 4-3 loss.
He couldn’t even bare to utter Doughty’s name when referring to the author of his team’s ultimate demise.
That’s how deep this runs.
In the afterglow of an improbable win by the rebuilding Kings, Doughty can offer an olive branch all he wants.
But people need to remember it’s Tkachuk that started this, and he’s nowhere near ready to end it.
For that the hockey world should be thankful.
At the age of 21 Tkachuk used the stage set by their ongoing feud to demonstrate his unique ability to not only drag his teammates into the fight, but draw in almost every one of his opponents.
It was, through these eyes, the best NHL game of Tkachuk’s career.
He did it all.
Two goals, three points, seven hits and the man turned a hard-sell Tuesday night tilt into must-watch TV.
With a little help from Milan Lucic, Tkachuk gave life to a sleepwalking squad that looked destined for another 9-1-type shellacking after being outshot 20-3 in the first.
In that frame Tkachuk provided the hosts’ only hint of life by pancaking Doughty twice.
With his team down 3-0 early in the second, he hit Kyle Clifford, before a Lucic fight with Kurtis MacDermid that turned up the temperature.
Five minutes later a Tkachuk goal got the Flames on the board, followed by his assist on Noah Hanifin’s tally.
Suddenly, we had a game – a slugfest that ratcheted up even more when he hit six-foot-five, 233-pound MacDermid so hard he clearly hurt and incensed the big lug.
Sparring verbally with MacDermid, Doughty, Dustin Brown and anyone else wearing white, Tkachuk continued to deliver several more hits to set up a second half bubbling with the type of vitriol the NHL is so sadly devoid of before April.
If Tkachuk has the ability to recreate the masterpiece he painted Tuesday, there’s little chance the Calgary Flames will be first-round casualties.
His passion, fight and ability to agitate are infectious, especially when coupled with Lucic to form the Itchy and Scratchy Show that will give opponents fits.
Andrew Mangiapane, who was solid alongside Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund in the last two periods, said as much after the game.
Tkachuk’s physicality got everyone involved, setting up a tense third period in which the Flames came at the Kings in waves. The tying goal was inevitable.
Pumping 14 shots at Jack Campbell in the third in search of the equalizer, it was Tkachuk who potted the overtime-inducer with a side-door jobby that saw him bat the puck out of the air with 64 seconds remaining.
Few have the hands capable of finishing that play.
Adding to the storyline was the fact Doughty was responsible for the goal after an ill-advised attempt to clear it up the middle.
Could the story get any juicier?
Indeed, in overtime it was Doughty whose power-play blast 50 seconds in capped the drama, prompting him to turn to scream at the crowd, bang on the glass and eventually skate off the ice with glove to ear, a la Hulk Hogan.
Unlike wrestling, you couldn’t have scripted this one any better, especially given the hype their pre-game jabs did to elevate attention around the league.
As he positioned himself for a post-game TV hit with the L.A. affiliate, Doughty screamed while exhaling, "(Screw) that guy."
Yep. Pure hatred.
"I want to put that to rest — it’s over," said a disingenuous Doughty, who hadn’t previously scored in 11 games against Tkachuk.
"He’s going to run me, that’s his job. He had a good game too — three points."
The two star adversaries both had three points, living up to the billing Doughty claims the media over-hyped.
"You guys keep talking about this and making it bigger than it is. Maybe not bigger than it is. It is a pretty big thing but… I turn on the TV before my pre-game nap and all I see is my face on the TV so I shut that off. They were hitting me late too. It’s a part of the game and it makes me play better. He’s trying to get me off my game, but really he’s just feeding my game. We’re both good players just trying to win."
Two great players helping the game win.
On this night Doughty got the last laugh, no doubt fueling Tkachuk to be even more motivated their next matchup, which will be staged at Staples Center Oct. 19 on Hockey Night in Canada.
"As much as I love getting booed every time I touch the puck, you kind of want to shove it in their faces," said Doughty of the welcome he received from Saddledome faithful.
"Before that overtime started I knew I had a great opportunity and I was like, ‘every time I get that puck I’m rippin’ it.’"
He did, capping a night few in attendance will forget.
"I think it’s great, the personal rivalry between the two, the team rivalry, the intensity that both of them bring," said coach Todd McLellan following his first win with the Kings.
"When you buy a ticket you’re going to watch those two closely. Nobody went home disappointed with Doughty or Tkachuk’s performances tonight."
Tkachuk was named first star, Doughty second.
A third star was unnecessary.